Having secured a last 8 berth before a ball was kicked (cheers Big Brother), Glasgow knew they could play an adventurous game with nothing to lose.
Which is just as well really, as Sarries came thundering out of the gates despite a late change meaning Alex Goode moved to 10 to replace Owen Farrell – nursing a thumb injury that required surgery. So many jokes to be used here, but he is still due to be fit for the 6 Nations. Glasgow couldn’t get hold of the ball and the English team, filled with actual giants like Brad Barritt, Vunipolas x 2 and a streamlined Schalk Burger, pounded on the door which eventually opened via some terrible defending from Grant Stewart. Ben Spencer got the score, and added the extras from the tee, which added to his early 3 pointer to give the home side a 10-point lead.
With Glasgow’s confidence being publicly questioned, surely this start meant it was just a question of how many points Sarries fancied?
No – Glasgow were here to play, and how so. First some delightful back play, including a ‘half-Finn’ 20m spinning bullet of a pass from Sam Johnson, sent Seymour over in the corner. Then cute play from Bob Harley charged down one of the endless box kicks that Spencer put up, which Ali Price snapped up. He looked as surprised as anyone when a path cleared to the try line and he scampered along it. 12 points in a few minutes and Glasgow were well in this one.
Saracens went back to form after this, tightening the game up to strangle Glasgow’s ambition. Maul after maul saw Koch storm over for the 2nd home score, but captain Wilson, looking back to some degree of form (before exiting early with a suspected shoulder injury), had other ideas, picking a superb thundering line to crash over and give Glasgow the lead. Three tries for Glasgow in 20 minutes, and a very good performance.
Then the wheels started to come off…
Some typically physical play from Billy Vunipola running off the base of a 5m scrum ended in the inevitable 7 pointer, with Fusaro tackling too high, Hastings too small and no one else there to help. Saracens were back in the lead.
Half-time: Saracens 24 – 19 Glasgow
Saracens looked a different beast in the second 40, perhaps done with any sense of occasion and determined now to ensure that Glasgow’s faint hopes of being pool winners were extinguished.
This was promptly achieved when some quality play from George Kruis and Jamie George sent Maro Itoije over. It was game over from a pool winning perspective but still Glasgow had the chance to move up the rankings in the confusing (even for an analyst by trade) system of determining quarter finalists.
Grant Stewart unfortunately has had some issues with his darts since his rapid promotion due to the injuries to Fraser Brown and George Turner. Today was no exception and it cost Glasgow dearly once again. Time and again good Glasgow positions went unconverted, and 90% of this was due to the lineout faltering. Can we borrow a throwing coach from anywhere?
Glasgow chased the game late on, but Saracens stayed form and picked them off with a final score from Will Skelton, adding perhaps a degree of authority to the score line which wasn’t evident certainly in the 1st half.
With a return trip to the Allianz the outcome, Glasgow will be hoping it is third time lucky in leafy London.
SRBlog Man of the Match: The sponsors had their say, with Maro Itoje getting the gong but from a Glasgow perspective it was Ali Price who really led the charge, looking back to his best just in time for the Six Nations. Honourable mentions too for Sam Johnson and Ryan Wilson.
Saracens: Williams; Lewington, Tompkins, Barritt, Strettle; Goode, Spencer; M Vunipola, George, Koch, Itoje, Kruis, Wray, Burger, B Vunipola.
Replacements: Tolofua (for George, 76), Barrington (for M Vunipola, 70), Judge (for Koch, 65), Skelton (for Wray, 58), Clark (for Burger, 52), Wigglesworth (for Spencer, 52), Lozowski (for Strettle, 14), Gallagher (for Lewington, 75).
Glasgow: Hogg; Seymour, Grigg, Johnson, DTH van der Merwe; Hastings, Price; Kebble, Stewart, Halanukonuka, Swinson, Gray, Harley, Fusaro, Wilson.
Replacements: Bryce (for Stewart, 52), Allan (or Kebble, 70), Rae (for Halanukonuka, 70), Ashe (for Gray, 41), Smith (for Wilson, 46), Horne (for Price, 65), Jones (for Johnson, 50), Matawalu (for Seymour, 65).